With ANZAC Day once again upon us people from Australia and New Zealand are paying their respects to those fallen soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. There are also seven players from either Australia or New Zealand who are following the symbolic ANZAC tradition by giving it their all for their respective clubs in the NBA Playoffs.
But what would happen if the twelve Australian and New Zealand players in the NBA combined on the same squad in the spirit of what our ANZAC heroes have done since 1915 and played a season in the world’s best competition?
With the newest addition to the NBA 2K series, NBA 2K17, being the best (and only) mainstream basketball video game of note, that question can actually be answered.
First let’s lay some ground rules:
- Only current ANZAC NBA players allowed – sorry Luc Longley, your services will not be needed.
- The team chosen to harbour these down under forces will be the Philadelphia 76ers, because of rookie phenom Ben Simmons but also their coach Brett Brown, who was a championship winning head coach with the North Melbourne Giants in 1994 and was the Australian men’s national team assistant coach from 1995 to 2003, before taking the head coaching role in 2012. If anyone in the NBA knows ANZAC basketball, it’s Brett Brown.
- The test will be run with no input from outside forces, and all injuries will be turned off – we don’t want the ANZAC 76ers being derailed by a freak injury.
- To make it fair, every ANZAC player slotted into the Sixers will have been traded from their original team. It’s a bit unfair on the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose Steven Adams for nothing. Players were traded for as fair value as possible.
- There were only eleven ‘true’ ANZACs in NBA 2K17, so Kyrie Irving (born in Melbourne) and Bryce Cotton (Finals MVP for Perth) were brought into the squad, rounding it out to thirteen players.
So, without further ado, here are your 2016-2017 ANZAC 76ers!
This team is stacked with point guards and centres, with five of each on the roster. Ten guys filling up only two positions isn’t a great start, but there is enough talent here to make up those shortfalls. So, for now, the starting five is Irving, Exum, Simmons, Motum and Adams with Ingles and Mills the first ones off the bench.
The power rankings have the ANZACS at twelfth out of thirty, which doesn’t sound that high but its sixth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for a playoff berth. If the ANZAC Sixers can make it to the playoffs, then the season should be a counted as a success.
The addition of Kyrie Irving may be seen as a bit of a cheat but technically he was born in Australia, and he goes a long way for the ANZAC campaign.
After all the hype of this monoculture of a team, they won their first game!
All Star Break – 28-28 (eighth in East)
Sitting in eighth place is a good position to be in, especially when the team is equal sixth with Chicago and Indiana and only a game and half from fifth-placed New York. Kyrie is leading the way for the team with 31 points and six assists per game, good enough for an Eastern Conference All-Star appearance.
Ben Simmons is leading all rookies, averaging an astounding 14 points, ten rebounds and five assists per game, which just goes to show how much we lost by him going down with an injury in real life. Patty Mills and Steven Adams are the other two ANZACs in double figures. Brock Motum is making the most of his additional minutes, averaging nine points, seven rebounds and three assists per game. The Sixers are a top ten defensive team, showing the grit and determination synonymous with the people of the two countries.
End of Regular Season – 41-41 (seventh in East)
After struggling in the second half of the season, the ANZACs finished the season with a flourish, going on a five-game winning streak to sneak into the playoffs in the seventh spot.
Here are the final team statistics:
Just like the Australian Boomers, this was definitely a ‘team’ team, with all but two players on the roster averaging at least ten minutes per game. The ANZACs look after each other and play as a cohesive group.
Russell Westbrook may have taken out the MVP award with even gaudier numbers than in real life (31.3 points, 13.0 assists, 12.0 rebounds per game) but it was Ben Simmons who stole the spotlight for this team. In all rookies throughout the competition, he was third in points, second in rebounds and fourth in assists and was rightfully awarded the Rookie of the Year accolade.
But did the ANZAC 76ers cause the upset and beat the number two seed Toronto Raptors? Unfortunately, not, as they blow a 3-1 lead to lose in the first round 4-3. Kyrie led the way again with 29 points per game in the playoffs, but it seemed that everyone else was down on their production from the regular season. In the end, Houston defeated Cleveland in five games to win the championship.
Final Result – 41-41, beaten in the first round 4-3
In the end, this goes to show that Australian and New Zealand players have a definite place in the world of basketball. Not only did they make the playoffs with a young, up and coming team but they nearly knocked off the second seed.
Using Kyrie Irving may have been pushing a technicality to make the team better, but in the future, that won’t be necessary as more talent such as Jonah Bolden, Deng Adel, Isaac Humphries, Makur Maker, Thon Maker and more put a stamp on the world’s greatest basketball league.